Vietnam and Cambodia

CONNOISSEUR’S VIETNAM & CAMBODIA

trails of indochina

 

Day 1 – Bangkok arrival 

Upon arrival, when you leave the airport terminal please look for a tour guide displaying a welcome signboard and your name. Please refer to the Pre-departure document which will be sent upon confirmation for specific details and a photo of the welcome signboard. Transfer to your hotel.

Day 2 – Bangkok- Luang Prabang 

You will be transfered to the airport to take the flight to Luang Prabang (arranged by Novotel Airport hotel and without guide). Upon arrival, meet up with your guide and transfer to your hotel for check-in.

Luang Probang2

Meet with your guide at the hotel and start a relaxing hike around the ancient town of Luang Prabang. Enjoy a leisurely walk to the magnificent stupa of Wat Visoun and continue to Wat That Luang (monastery of the big stupas) and Wat Mai. Wat Mai is Luang Prabang’s oldest Pagoda. Continue to Wat Xiengthong with its classic Laos’ style roofs, which are a magnificent sight to behold. End of your day with a short climb to the top of MountPhousi, located in the centre of town and admire the wonderful view from the top of the town across the Mekong and Khanrivers as well as the surrounding mountains.

Day 3 –  Luang Prabang- Rice farming experience 

Spend a morning on a community based living rice farm situated in the idyllic countryside, surrounded by mountains and centuries old rice paddies. Experience the life of a farmer and try your hand at some of the activities. Or just view it all from the comfort of our traditional Lao rice house balcony, which is surrounded by rice terraces and our organic vegetable farm. All can join in and there are great photo opportunities. While there, spend some time to visit some local handicraft workshops like bamboo weaving, blacksmith work, and sugar cane processing. Finally, join a tour of the organic garden with explanation on how natural herbs are used in traditional medicine. Later, transfer back to Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang 3

After lunch, meet your guide at the hotel and begin your transfer by private vehicle to Kuang Si waterfalls. On the way, visit a local market at Phosy and observe the locals trading their fresh produce. Once at the waterfalls, take a leisurely hike through the national park towards the Kuang Si waterfalls and pass by the Asian bear rescue center. You will enjoy feeling the mist of the cool, turquoise waters of the different waterfalls. Swimming in the resfreshing waters is possible. Transfer to Ban Muang Khai and board a local river boat for a sunset cruise on the Mekong. Transfer back to your hotel by private vehicle.

Baci ceremonies are an integral part of Lao culture. Held to celebrate a special event, marriage, a homecoming, or a departure, it is based on an ancient belief that the human being is a union of 32 organs and the “kwan” (or soul) watches over each of them. The Baci ceremony re-aligns the kwan and the body. A village elder will wrap a white cotton thread around your wrist while chanting an invocation to strengthen the power of the blessing. In Laos, white is the colour of peace, good fortune and warmth. Enjoy the authentic experience in a unique setting and feel refreshed and enlightened by taking part in this ancient practice.

Day 4 – Luang Prabang full day tour- Visit hill tribe

Start the day early with a drive of 2.5 hours to Ban Nayang village. The village is home to the Tai Lu minorities, who migrated from Yunnan, China in the late 18th century. Upon arrival, walk a short distance to the village which is home to about 500 Tai Lu tribal people. The villagers grow their own cotton and each household has two or three weaving looms beneath their living quarters. The houses are all built on stilts, which is particular to the Tai Lu. Observe the distinct weaving style of the villagers, who produce table cloths, wall decorations and scarves. Although shy by nature, the villagers are open to talk about their daily life activities and you are invited to interact with the local people. Learn more about their efforts to preserve their traditional working methods and crafts. Lunch is cooked by the villagers and served in a local home. Enjoy the afternoon mingling with the locals and going around the area to learn more about daily life in the village. Head back to Luang Prabang in mid afternoon.

Day 5 – Luang Prabang- Siem Reap

Siem Reap

You will be transfer to the airport to take the flight to Siem Reap. Upon arrival, meet up with your guide and transfer to your hotel.  The remainder of the day is free at leisure.

Day 6 –  Siem Reap full day tour- Angkor Wat with Khmer scholar and Angkor Thom & Dinner at temple

Visit Angkor Wat, one of the modern wonders and most important religious monuments in the world, with a renowned Khmer scholar. He will be able to share his vast experience and give you a concise overview of Khmer history, culture, archaeology and civilization. He has been working with the Angkor Temple Conservation Institution for many years and has a detailed knowledge of the temple’s history as well as how they will be preserved in the decades to come. Take a stroll through the elaborate carved hallways of Angkor Wat as the Khmer empire is brought to life through the scholar’s explanations of the various stories contained in each of the bas reliefs and murals. This private tour takes approximately two to three hours and will be customized to your interest level.

Siem Reap 2

Head back to Siem Reap to rest and to enjoy lunch on your own before continuing to Angkor Thom, the ancient royal city of Khmer Empire with its centre piece; the Bayon temple. As you approach, you will notice the enigmatic faces of former King Jayavarman VII looking into every direction. Your guide will take you to the Terrace of the Elephants, which served as a platform from where the King could welcome back his victorious army and the Terrace of the Leper King, which holds detailed carvings winding along a narrow passage way that leads to the Baphuon complex. In the late afternoon, visit Artisans d’Angkor, an organization focusing on training unschooled rural youth in traditional handicraft skills. Ancient techniques are still practiced here such as wood and stone carving, lacquering, gilding and silk painting. Bid farewell to the artisans and return to your hotel.

Located in the heart of Siem Reap town, Wat Damnak is one of the most beautiful pagodas in town with French colonial architecture reflecting its history and a large garden filled with statues. Bring candles and incense sticks to the pagoda and participate in a private good luck blessing ceremony, performed by local monks that reside at the temple. Sit on the mat while the monks chant blessings and sprinkle holy water on you – a traditional way which is believed pass on the good luck of the gods. Afterwards, a sacred thread will be tied around your wrist. This will protect you from any evil spirits or accidents.

Later, enjoy the setting with candle light and enchanting atmosphere which emphasizes the ancient structure of the temple. Take pleasure in a traditional sights and sounds while your private waiter will serve a delicious array of tastes.

Day 7 – Siem Reap full day tour- Ta Prohm and Banteary Srei

The day is started with a visit to the picturesque Ta Prohm. This temple is considered to be Angkor’s most beautiful structure and is overgrown with fig trees, giving a haunting yet exotic atmosphere. The magnificent roots of the trees have merged itself over the centuries with the temple’s huge stone blocks, emphasizing a ‘forgotten city’ feeling. Return to Siem Reap and visit L’Artisans d’Angkor, an organization focusing on training unschooled rural youth in traditional handicraft skills. Here you can discover traditional Cambodian handicraft skills and observe the artisans at work. Enjoy a rest and depart in the afternoon for the jewel of Khmer art, Banteay Srei temple. Translating to “The Citadel of the Women”, this red sand-stone temple is one of Angkor’s most significant structures as its walls are decorated with elaborate carvings and in an amazing state of preservation. Much of the Angkor civilization can be learned here by studying the remarkable carving.

siem Reap 3

Day 8 –  Siem Reap- Kampong Chhnnag “Water world”

Transfer from the your hotel to Victoria Angkor for cruise check-in.

The Tonle Sap (The Great Lake) is the flowing heart of Cambodia, giving love and life to this nation. The Tonle Sap has more fish than any other lake in the world  and is home to an incredible variety of birds, including rare – and endangered – feathered life. The water level rises and drops considerably throughout the year. Thus, our journey begins in high or low water.

At 12:30 pm, we gather at the meeting point followed by a quick transfer to the boutique ship.  The ever-smiling crew welcomes us with unbridled warmth. A refreshingwelcome drink awaits us followed by a sumptuous lunch on the ship.

Then, it is a lazy afternoon as the ship glides along the water. Dinner is at Indochine Dining Hall. Enjoy a spectacular experience on the sun-deck as we bathe in the glow of the moon and the radiance of the stars.  The ship then moors overnight on The Great Lak

Day 9 – Kampong Chhnnag- Kampong Cham “ Cambodia’s provine and watlands”

The day – in fact everyday – starts with an invigorating Tai Chi lesson on the sundeck, just as the sun begins its slow rise. Coffee and tea awaits the early bird. Before dawn, the Ship sets sail across the Tonle SapLake. As the ship is about to exit the lake, we see spectacular marshlands floating along the river banks of Kampong Chhnang province. The afternoon cruise continues with a languid meander along the Tonle Sap, which narrows through leafy swaths of the Southeast Asian jungle. Here, the river is very narrow and we are greeted by kids waving enthusiastically at us from the banks.

Follow a short bus trip to the see the Khmer-styled pottery at the Aundaung Russey village. We then embark on a truly marvelous motorboat excursion from Kampong Chhnang to see the wetlands, floating houses and fish farms in the region before reaching Kampong Cham in the evening.

Further down the river we take part in an ox cart rally before being introduced to the Heritage Line pro bono “literacy project”. (www.cambodialiteracyproject.com) 

Day 10 – Kampong Cham- Wat Hanchey “ Monks and hilltops”

We will wake up in the small hours of the morning, truly energized to embark on a land journey to the pre-Angkorian temple of Wat Hanchey. Travelers either take a motor-taxi or climb the 291 steps to the top. Located at the top of a hill overlooking the river, it offers one of the most breath-taking views in Cambodia. Built in the 8th century, this ancient structure, together with a bigger and newer addition underscores the superb architecture of the Chenla Empire which predates the mighty Angkor temple complex. We even get to engage in light banter with some of the monks in the area. We will return to the ship to witness a blessing ceremony performed by orange-clad local monks.

When the tide allows, we will enjoy a surprise sojourn in our zodiacs (inflatable boats) to the nearby bank to swim in the tea-coloured Mekong river, an experience that will, no doubt, dominate dinner conversations in the weeks to come.

We will then cruise towards Kampong Cham to visit Wat Nokor, a wat built within the ruins of an ancient temple which holds a timeless story. On the way back to the ship, we will visit an orphanage. Along the way, we will have to maneuver a 2-kilometer rickety bamboo bridge. Our sense of balance lies in the balance.

Day 11 – Phnom Penh “Pearl of east”

Phnom Penh was once the Paris of the East.  Despite its rapid development, it has retained a lot of its rustic charm and elegance. After breakfast, we will be captivated by a comprehensive lecture on Cambodia’s modern history. This will be followed by a city tour of this dynamic, historical capital city of Cambodia which has managed to preserve huge slices of its French colonial allure. Sightseeing in the morning will include visiting the dazzling white and gold edifice of the RoyalPalace and the Silver Pagoda, and witnessing exceptionally beautiful Khmer craft at the NationalMuseum.

Kids

After lunch at a local restaurant, we will visit the Genocide museum and the Killing Field in town. Be prepared to be heart wrenched by this stark reminder of the genocide that transpired during Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime.

We go back to the ship after our museum visit. A variety of cocktails will be served followed by a traditional Apsara dance performance onboard. Experience the brilliance and richness of this culture, the soothing sounds of traditional music, the calming scent of incense sticks and a barbeque on the sundeck. It is indeed a truly marvelous experience, dining in the open with the stars and the moon as our companions.

Day 12 – : Phnom Penh- border crossing “ The Highway Blues”

The cruise liner then sets sail for a lazy day of cruising along the main Mekong Channel. As this is an international shipping route, you will witness large commercial ships plying this route. Later, in the afternoon, we set off to the Vietnamese border for the requisite cross border paperwork. As the process tends to take some time, we bask in the glow of the afternoon sun on the Sun Deck, pamper ourselves silly at the Spa, or sharpen our culinary skills with the Heritage Line’s Cambodian and Vietnamese cuisine cooking class.  The ship moors midstream overnight.

Day 13 –  Chau Doc- Sa Dec “circus of fish”

Welcome to the fish sanctuary of Vietnam. We begin our day with a hearty breakfast at the Indochine Dining Hall or in the quiet sanctuary of your balcony.  We will brace ourselves for a short excursion in Chau Doc, a pleasant town near the Cambodian border with sizeable Chinese, Kinh and Khmer communities. We will also visit the colorful local market near an ancient temple. This is followed by a trip to the quay, where we will be feted to a boat excursion to the floating market and rustic catfish farms.

We will certainly enjoy watching schools of basa fish being fed by hand. Then, it is back to the ship for a lunch. In the late afternoon, we will set off for Sa Dec

Day 14 –  Sa Dec- Cai Be- My Tho “Vietnamese inventiveness”

In the morning we embark a traditional sampan* to tour BinhThanhIsland and its man-made canals. Here, every villager is involved in the process of growing and processing water hyacinths into natural fibre floor mats and rattan baskets.

After lunch onboard, the ship arrives in Cai Be. The tour starts with a visit to Cai Be’s boisterous and colorful floating market where traders gather in a cacophonous congregation. During the languid ride, we discover breathtaking landscapes along the river and quaff the rustic life on the Mekong Delta.

The evergreen islands along the MekongRiver remains unknown to many people. The cruise will halt intermittenly to allow us to observe how rice paste, rice cookies and coconut candies are made, along with the Longan fruit drying process. After touring the canals, we head to an ancient house surrounded by fruit orchards before heading to the ship for dinner.  We then board the Ship for a tranquil evening cruise towards My Tho. A wonderful farewell party awaits us on the cruise.

Day 15 –  Sa My Tho- Saigon “ Good morning Saigon”

Our cruise on the magnificent cruiser comes to an end as the ship winds its way to My Tho, approximately 70km south of Saigon on the upper Mekong river in Vietnam. We bid farewell to the cruise as our journey comes to a close. But the memories – and the friendships made on board – linger on for a lot longer.  We disembark at around 9:00 am and we join the transfer to madding crowd of Saigon.

Saigon Yangon

 Although it is our intention to operate the itinerary as detailed proposal, we will do our utmost to stick to the set itinerary, however we cannot be held responsible for any last minute changes that might occur. It may be necessary to make some changes as a result of climatic conditions, alterations to cruise schedules or other operational factors.

Transfer to your hotel for check-in.

Day 16 –  Saigon- Yangon 

You will be transfer to the airport to take the flight to Yangon. Upon arrival, meet up with your guide and transfer to your hotel.

Saigon Yangon 2

Day 17 –  The countryside of Yangon

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel and transfer afterwards to the Nanthida jetty. Board a ferry to cross the YangonRiver to Dala. As you board the ferry, enjoy the hustle and bustle going on at the street market close to the port. After a quick 15-minute ride, disembark the ferry and continue by trishaw through town. On your way be greeted by friendly people and visit the traditional market. Explore the monastery and get a better understanding of what monastic life is all about. The monastery also functions as a community centre. Return to Yangon by boat while observing the authentic local lifestyle along the river.

Day 18 –  Yangon full day tour

Although the city of Yangon has grown to accommodate over six million people, it has retained its former charm. Start the day with a visit to the Sule Pagoda. Originally an Indian structure, it is according to legend over 2,500 years old. Stroll through downtown Yangon with its faded colonial atmosphere and visit the beautiful post office.

saigon yangon 3

Observe the locals going about their daily routine when we pass by Mahabandoola Park before visiting the Kyaukhtatgyi pagoda, known for the reclining Buddha that measures 70 metres in length. Lunch is served in town before continuing to the National Museum, which is home to priceless ancient artefacts. Visit the Bogyoke Market (closed on Mondays and public holidays) then head to the Indian quarter for a different view of the city. End the day with a visit to the magnificent Shwedagon pagoda, where many local and Buddhists come to worship, before returning to your hotel.

Day 19 –  Yangon- Mandalay 

Morning domestic flight from Yangon to Mandalay. Transfer to the Road To Mandalay berthed on the AyeyarwadyRiver at Shwe Kyet Yet. After lunch, enjoy a guided tour of the key sights of Mandalay regarded as the centre of Burmese culture and Buddhist learning. Return to Road To Mandalay for dinner and local entertainment in the evening.

Day 20 –  Sagaing  

After an early breakfast visit Sagaing, the living centre of the Buddhist faith in Myanmar and famous for its silversmiths who still work in much the same way as their ancestors did. The ship gets underway mid-morning, and begins its journey south. The rest of the day is spent relaxing on board observing the local river life from the top deck. An on-board guide lectures on local places and customs. A casual cocktail party is followed by dinner on board.

young ladies

Day 21 –  Bagan  

The ship arrives at Bagan where over 2,000 temples and pagodas are scattered on an awe-inspiring plain beside the river. A guided orientation tour introduces you to the most important temples. After lunch you have the opportunity to rejoin the guide and visit the inside of some of the more significant pagodas. Alternatively, you can hire a bicycle or horse-drawn cart and explore this fascinating area on your own. Late afternoon your guide takes you to watch the breathtaking vista of the sun setting over the plain. Dinner and local entertainment on board.

Day 22 –  Bagan- Heho

After an early breakfast you are transferred to Bagan airport for your onward flight to Heho.  Upon arrival, meet up with your guide and transfer to your hotel in Inle Lake.  The remainder of the day is free at leisure.

Day 23 –  Full day excursion Inle Lake

The freshwater lake of Inle is Myanmar’s second largest and measure about 70km2. Located at an altitude of 880 metres, the lake is also one of the highest in the country, with a cool climate and exceptional flora and fauna. There are estimated 70,000 local people living at more than 200 villages on or around the lake.

Inle Lake

Starting your trip to pass by the floating gardens and floating villages & visit Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda-the most venerable pagoda on the lake, which houses 05 images of Buddha completely gilded. Then visit Heya Ywama village and observe traditional handicraft workshops such as the silk weaving on wooden handlooms and blacksmith shop before having lunch at local restaurant. Continue the journey with cheroots making & gold and silver smith work shops. Of course on the way you will be amazed by the lake’s unique “leg rowers” the Intha people who row standing up with one leg wrapped around an oar. Return to your hotel.

Day 24 –  Inle lake- Visit five Day Market 

Rise early to visit the rural but bustling five-day market and observe locals and several minority groups wearing traditional costumes trading farm produce such as vegetables, fruits, dried tea leaves as well as animals.

Inle Lake 2

The vibrant atmosphere of the market makes it a jolly experience. (The date of this special market is set by the local people and the location changes every 5 days, your guide will inform you of the exact location). Return to your resort and spend the rest of the day at your leisure.

Day 25 –  Inle Lake-Heho; Heho- Yangon

You will be transfer to the airport to take the flight to Yangon. Upon arrival, meet up with your guide and transfer to town.  The regular check-in time for all hotels is 2.00pm. Early check-in is subject to availability.

Board a local train in Yangon that runs on a loop from the main railway station through various neighbourhoods. Observe the colourful and rural life outside of the city centre and strike up a conversation with the locals on board. There is no air conditioning and practically anything from market wares to household items are being transported on board, making the ride even more interesting. The total ride takes around three hours and your guide is on hand if you would like to ask any questions or have a chat with your fellow passengers. Return full circle to Yangon station.

Day 26 –  Yangon- Bangkok 

You will be transfered to the airport to take the flight back to Bangkok. Upon arrival, the hotel’s staff will wait for you at Level 2, Gate 4 of the airport and transfer you to the hotel by join-in shuttle bus.  The remainder of the day is free at leisure.

Bangkok

Day 27 –  Bangkok departure 

You will be transfered to the airport e (arranged by Novotel Airport hotel and without guide) to take your departure flight home.

TOUR COST & SCHEDULING

Please contact Adamarie King at Connoisseur’s Travel for all cost and scheduling details.   

 

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